Let go and let God. This was a favorite saying at Judson Baptist Church where I attended when I was in high school. This spiritual act of letting go is one that is embraced in old-time religion but also in monastic spirituality (surrender) and mindfulness (release). Letting go is the ultimate act of freedom. The spirit of letting go is not one of disengagement but rather one of trust in a higher power present to help and to guide. Letting go is the ultimate act of love and faith. Nonetheless, it is hard to do.
We have been living in a time that requires letting go of what we have known. The pandemic stripped us bare of our plans and routines. The experience opened our eyes to see the world and the church through a different lens. What does it mean to be a church? What does our future look like? How might we imagine stewarding our community into a hopeful future?
I find hope in the stories of our faith. God asked Moses and Aaron to toss down their prized staff, a symbol of leadership, tradition, and identity. When they let go God turned that staff into a snake. When God asked Moses to pick up this staff again it was a snake. In other words, picking up the staff was a scary thing to do. But by picking it up again Moses would use it to part the seas and bring water from a rock in the desert to quench the thirst of the people. These symbols resonate with other Greek traditions which inspired the familiar medical symbol of a snake coiled around a staff that decorates pharmaceutical packaging and hospitals alike.
Sometimes we find ourselves clinging to the things we value and rely on. Letting go of them is hard enough but watching them turn into snakes is frightening. Yet snakes represented healing in ancient tradition. So when God asks us to pick up those things we let go of there is a renewed sense that they belong to God, and not us. That is when the future opens up.
St. John’s has been through so much over the years. The pandemic was a period of radical letting go, surrender, and release. What comes next is a time of taking up our staff with a renewed sense of openness and profound sense that our ministry belongs to God. How will we part seas and satisfy the spiritual thirst we see in our world?
At St. John’s we are on the cusp of a new beginning and I am excited to see where God leads us. With your generous help we now have a full staff team and are about to undertake a huge transformation of our campus that will open our spiritual home to the broader community in a safe and inviting way. Just as our ancestors paid it forward, purchasing and building the St. John’s we now enjoy, I am grateful for all of you who, because of your faith and generosity, are making it possible for us to reach another amazing point in our history as we pay it forward in new ways. Thank you for stepping up to be part of this new beginning for St. John’s!
In Jeremiah 29 we read one of God’s many promises to God’s people: “For I know the plans and thoughts that I have for you,’ says the Lord, ‘plans for peace and well-being and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”
Image: The Alleged Staff of Moses in the Topkapı Palace Museum, Istanbul (Booksandbonsai, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons)